While pop is packed with a dazzling myriad of female solo stars, males – from Elvis Presley through George Michael all the way to Justin Timberlake – tend to share at their core a seriousness that The X Factor simply cannot imbue. In a show premised on mocking notions of authenticity in music, to be seen to sincerely aspire to a singer-songwriter template is to be a cringe-inducing embarrassment.
Instead, the product of The X Factor is supposed to be infinitely malleable and always friendly – it’s notable that the show’s one enduring male success, Olly Murs, quickly made a career for himself as a professional cheeky chappy television presenter on The Xtra Factor. To distance yourself from the show and attempt to focus on ‘the music’, as Matt Cardle did, is viewed as ostentatious pretension and is almost certainly career suicide; yet to do what you’re told is almost certain to result in Mother’s Day covers album and West End musical hell.
My review of James Arthur’s debut is up. As night follows day, anyone emerging from X Factor who aspires to anything other than acting as a conduit for interchangeable POP! is instinctively attacked and mocked – I’ve already seen Arthur widely being labelled as ‘pretentious’, ‘bitter’, ‘angry’ etc with countless sneering references to ‘authenticity’ and ‘credibility’. Tedious beyond belief yet it’s kinda not the done thing to parse any negative effect which X Factor may have on pop music. You need only spend a few minutes on the #xfactor tag on a Saturday evening to see how degrading and tawdry the whole thing has become. It has an air of the colosseum about it – folk really think nothing of tearing these (mostly) kids apart in the most visceral, vicious ways. Yet despite treating it with utter contempt, the habitual cry of ‘snob!’ will go up whenever anyone dares to criticise the show, as if participating in the weekly hatefest is to be ‘down to earth’. Odd, to say the least.